In May, President Obama touted $17 billion in cuts he had planned for a budget of more than $3 trillion. Obama was quite proud of these cuts. Really. He told reporters that while $17 billion in cuts was considered "trivial" inside the beltway, "outside of Washington, that's still considered a lot of money."
So forgive me if I am skeptical when Obama -- who called it "painful" to squeeze one half of 1 percent from the gargantuan federal machine -- claims, as he did at Wednesday night's news conference, that two-thirds of his plan to provide universal access to health care for Americans "can be paid for by reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health care programs."
What shocks me is how smart people actually buy into the notion that the administration can expand health coverage and that it will not -- indeed, should not -- cost most taxpayers a dime.
As Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew Altman wrote, "Our polls show that most Americans (60 percent) think that if policymakers made the right moves they could cover the cost of health care reform without spending new money, which is not true."
Or try this from David Koitz of the nonpartisan fiscal watchdog group the Concord Coalition: "Standing alone, expanded insurance coverage means expanding access to health care and that will likely increase health spending overall. The efforts in Massachusetts mandating that its citizens have health insurance show that simply expanding the availability of insurance does not contain costs. If anything the evidence from its brief existence suggests the opposite. Over the past year, the state has had to raise taxes and fees to keep the new program afloat, and government and industry officials believe the program will not survive over the next five to ten years if major actions are not taken to slow the state's health care spending."
Feel free to re-read that quote, and you will see the wisdom in Washington taking its time to pass what Obama calls health care "reform."
Everything I've seen so far suggests that the package is too good to be true. ABC's Jake Tapper said to Obama, "understandably -- you don't talk about the sacrifices that Americans might have to make." He then asked whether the American people would have to give up anything to pay for Obama's cost-cutting plans.
Those of you with memories might recall that the 2008 Democratic primary was a nonstop repudiation of George W. Bush's failure to call for "sacrifice." Now that a Democrat is in the White House, you can forget that silly notion.